Flower power!    

Uppsala county occupies most of the historical province of Uppland, a region affectionately known as "Little Sweden" because its geography encompasses so many characteristic features of the Swedish landscape. In The Wonderful Adventure of Nils, one of her best-loved narratives, Selma Lagerlöf describes how small streams from Västergötland, rocky islets from Bohuslän, bays from Sörmland, wilderness from Östergötland, heather-covered hills from Småland (and so on) combined to form this magical place.

The city of Uppsala, the county capital, is the site of the oldest university in Scandinavia, founded in 1477. Carolus Linnaeus, the 18th century botanist known as the father of modern taxonomy, was a professor at Uppsala University; another household name associated with UU is Anders Celsius, whose thermometric scale has become the international standard, while the city itself is proud to have been home to Ingmar Bergman and Dag Hammarskjöld.

Inevitably, Linnaeus is still a major presence in and around the city. The so-called "Linnaeus Trails" are a particular delight: a series of eight educational nature walks, put together by the great scientist and teacher. Linnaeus' system was to let his students discover the natural world on their own: as they walked, he would have the group disperse freely and then collect them every half hour or so to discuss what they had found from the three kingdoms: animal, vegetable and mineral.

The local tourist authority strongly recommends these "Flower Power Walks" to visitors, whether on their own or in guided tours, which take in virtually every aspect of Linnaeus' life and times: every spring and summer is in effect a Linnaeus festival. In any case, wherever you go in the city or county of Uppsala, there is likely to be a garden, park or nature reserve close by. Visitors are also impressed by the Gothic-style Uppsala Cathedral, one of the largest in northern Europe, with towers over 118 metres high; and the magnificent 16th century Uppsala Castle is now a popular party and conference venue.

Uppsala's history has involved one momentous event after another. This is where Svea Rike, arguably the precursor to the Swedish nation, emerged during the Iron Age, to be followed by centuries of intrigue and violence worthy of Norse mythology. The numerous grave fields and runestones scattered around the county tell the tale.

No less suffused with history is the attractive municipality of Enköping, which boasts no fewer than 33 well-preserved medieval churches, a number of which contain frescoes and paintings by Albertus Pictor, one of the great Swedish artists of the era. A programme of lectures, tours, exhibitions and concerts is being held during 2009 to observe the 500th anniversary of his death.

Älvkarleby municipality is bisected by the river Dalälven, which cuts straight across the territory from the forest areas in the south to the sea in the north. Älvkarleby claims to be "the birthplace of Swedish angling": in the rapids downriver, more salmon and sea salmon trout are said to be caught than in the whole of Europe – about 20 tonnes a year. As the river runs into the sea, the rapids give way to long sandy beaches, smooth flat rocks or small coves, most of them ideal for children.

The coastal district of Roslagen, in the northern reaches of the Stockholm archipelago, is a lively summer destination. Island-hopping is particularly rewarding here. Brightly coloured wooden houses with lovely gardens are typical of the area, which also supports plenty of boutiques, restaurants, cafés and museums and special events.


Roslagen Uppsala Cathedral Iceskating